Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Central Warsaw railway update

It's been 170 years since the railway first came to Warsaw... On 14 June 1845, the first passenger train left Warsaw, bound for Grodzisk Mazowiecki. This was less than 15 years after the world's first passenger service - the Liverpool and Manchester Railway - opened. It took three years for the Warsaw-Vienna Railway to reach the border with the Austrian Empire; from 1848 rail travel between the two Central European cities became possible. The opening of the first stretch of the Warsaw-Vienna Railway is commemorated in a piece of street art (below) on a retaining wall at W-wa Ochota station, and it puts Polish rail travel into a historical perspective.

Today I retraced my steps of a journey I did last year (then to avoid a deluge, today to check what's new at Centralna).

So then. Meanwhile, back at W-wa Centralna, the westernmost underground passage - the only one to have escaped a refit prior to the Euro 2012 football championship - is now being rendered fit for the 21st Century. Gone are the stragany selling burnt casein sandwiches and pączki, flick-knives, paperbacks and second-hand mobiles. I guess once this passage is ready, its new retail residents will be Relay, Victoria's Secret and Starbucks and other global brands, rather than Heniex and Ziutex. Still, it will lift the rather downbeat and oppressive tone that lingered on down here.

Below: The Narrow Way. The builders are in. Not a place to be when dozens of passengers are simultaneously rushing for their trains hither and thither with suitcases, unsure of where they're going.

Below: The place is changing beyond recognition; where are the old stalls, the old booths? The wheelchair ramp makes access easier at this, the northern end at least.

Typical. As ever, whenever Polish railway termini are being refitted, there's a dearth of passenger information. These two are lost (below); there's no signage telling them which platform they are at, nor which train will be leaving from here. Just acres of plasterboard (gips-karton) and posters. "We're doing a remont. Let's take down the platform number signs from the ceiling six months before we get round to actually doing the ceiling."

Below: how it looked back in March 2012. The rest of W-wa Centralna had by then been refurbished, but the western passage was overlooked in the process. Note the Peron 4 sign.

Below: Ah! My favourite shot. Shoving the camera's snout through a narrow gap in a hoarding to catch a glimpse of what lies behind. Secret passageways, masses of work before this lot's ready!

Below: looking northward along the western passage. The slogan (right) reads: Zmieniamy dworzec dla Ciebie - 'We're changing the terminus for you. The works will have been completed by the end of this year'. No doubt there'll still be many months before the completed retail units have been leased out to commercial tenants.

And on, out of Dworzec Centralny, and down the ramp to the WKD terminus (below). Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa - a light railway line linking Grodzisk Mazowiecki and Milanówek, Warsaw's south-western exurbs with the city centre. Using a mixture of modern (hidden in the background, right) and early-1970s rolling stock, the WKD is a cross between a tramway and a proper railway.

Warszawa Śródmieście WKD is a strange station; the single platform is long, passengers disembark at the western end of the platform (below), the train then crosses the track, shunts backwards then forwards to the eastern end of the platform where passengers embark to head off towards Grodzisk.

I exit the WKD station and westward proceed along Al. Jerozolimskie until I reach W-wa Ochota station (below). I'm on the main suburban platform; across the track is the W-wa Ochota WKD platform. The main suburban lines and the WKD run parallel until W-wa Zachodnia then they all go their own separate ways.

Warsaw's commuter railways - WKD, Koleje Mazowieckie and Szybkie Koleje Miejskie, are all experiencing increasing - indeed record - numbers of passengers. It is good to see investment and growth, fewer breakdowns, ever-improving punctuality and reliability. In a civilised world, rail - after nearly 200 years - remains the optimal way of moving people into city centres.

This time three years ago:
Poland's night train network

This time four years ago:
On a musical note

This time five years ago:
Standing stones

This time eight years ago:
The year nears its zenith


Bob said...

Michal - you might like this blog: https://www.facebook.com/UrbexPolska?hc_location=ufi

Michael Dembinski said...

Fascinating stuff! I had no idea that something this well organised was going on! Thanks for link, Bob!